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twenty or twenty-five years before it was conquered in that way, with resultant consequences on all social and economic progress, both in America and the world, which forbid speculation. Fitch's method of travel was laughed aside, but did not die. It slept.

CHAPTER XVI

THE AGE OF THE FLATBOAT, ARK AND KEEL-BOAT BEGINS

EFFECT OF THE OPENING OF THE NORTHWEST TERRI-
TORY - A MILLION PEOPLE DRIFT THROUGH THE IN-
TERIOR LIFE ON THE FLATBOATS CONTRASTS OF
TRAGEDY AND REVEL DESCRIPTIONS AND USES OF
THE VARIOUS CRAFT BY WHICH THE FIRST GENERAL
TRAVEL TO THE OHIO COUNTRY AND MIDDLE WEST
WAS ACCOMPLISHED

T

HE era of the flatboat, ark and keel-boat had already

begun. With the passage of the Northwest Ordinance by the Congress of the Confederation in 1787 the territory now included in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin was thrown open to settlement, and a general public interest in the immense region beyond the mountains and the Ohio River swept through the original seacoast colonies. Hundreds of thousands of the population, to which aggregate each state contributed a share, decided to journey to the western country and set up new homes in the forest. Preparations for the migration affected every locality of the East. That part of the interior toward which the eyes of the coast inhabitants were now turned was unknown in its details to the bulk of the people, though a knowledge of its essential characteristics and the best ways of getting there had been spread through the occupied areas by means of tales brought back by numerous frontier travel

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73.–River travel before the age of steamboats. The covered keel-boat, or barge,

was for many years the principal river craft for quick journeys, especially up-stream. Barges often had sleeping bunks, but passengers carried their own bedding. The captain blew a horn at starting time. This and the illustrations to No. 90, inclusive, show the various types of drifting and man-propelled boats used from about 1788 until after the general introduction of steamboats, and indicate the manner in which hundreds of thousands floated down the Ohio and Mississippi to settle in the interior.

lers. The country was known to be densely wooded, and
very fertile after the forest had been swept away. It
could most easily be reached by the Ohio River, which
traversed the border of the region for nearly a thousand
miles and whose numerous tributaries furnished routes
through the southern part of the inviting lands for con-
siderable distances. The northern section of the terri-
tory affected by the Ordinance was all but unknown. It
was not considered at the beginning of the first general
westward rush of the people, because it could not be pene-
trated. The difficulties and dangers of such an attempt
were too great to be wisely undertaken.
A journey to the head waters of the Ohio, at the time

the Confederation established an organized government for the so-called Northwest Territory, no longer presented peril to human life and could be made, in good weather, without extreme hardship. The wagon roads of settled sections in the East, together with the system of pack-train trails and wilderness roads leading toward the frontier from the domain of busier highways, constituted available paths to the upper Ohio region from every part of the Atlantic coast between Connecticut and Virginia. Things were getting easier. The one human quality essential in the successful performance of the trip from the seaboard to the Ohio was a physical capacity for enduring exposure and hard work during a period of from two to five weeks. All that was required after vehicular roads were left behind was the organization of a packtrain, and in due course of time the migrating bands — or such part of them as did not succumb to illness or accident on the way

climbed the last hill and caught a glimpse, in the distance, of the fabled and beautiful river thenceforward to bear them toward new lives and habitations.

Arriving at Redstone, Pittsburgh, or whatever other settlement was the goal of their overland travel, the westward movers established themselves in camp for a period of recuperation, and the men folk of the party set about the work of obtaining transportation facilities suitable for their future needs. The boats were sometimes bought ready built, but were more often constructed by the travellers themselves from trees felled on the spot.

The curious craft destined to play a large part for a generation in the travel movement which populated the

1 Especially in the early stages of the westward movement by water. After the first year or two many axmen and carpenters made a regular business of building boats and keeping them in stock at every river town.

Ohio and upper Mississippi valleys were of several types. Throughout thirty or forty years they were extensively used, and within that period probably a million people lived in them for weeks at a time, during journeys of from three hundred to two thousand miles. They were built by tens of thousands, yet not one of them remains as

[graphic]

74.—The flatboat, Ohio-boat or Kentucky-boat. Most common type of vehicle

for river travel during the population movements that led to the permanent occupation of the Mississippi valley by the whites. It was entirely enclosed and was, in fact, a floating house. Such a boat was seldom pulled against a current.

a memorial of the vehicles which bore so important a share in the nation's expansion. Roman galleys and ships of the early Norsemen have been found for modern eyes to look upon, but there is small chance for future Americans ever to see an example of the quaint boats into which men, women, children, horses, pigs, chickens, cows, dogs,

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